Underwater Adventurer in the Mountains of TN

 

Yesterday, I got to go diving again.

It wasn’t the Caribbean or Tahiti or anything. In fact, I dived in what remains of the old Gray quarry just 20 minutes from my house. At first glance, it didn’t look like much. The water had lots of leaves in it, and from the surface, at least, it was smaller than I expected.

 The visibility is surprisingly good – not like the Keys or a freshly cleaned pool – but in broad daylight, as long as no one stirs up the silt, visibility is 30 ft or more. The local dive clubs that maintain the place, have cleaned it out, added an aeration system, and even dropped in attractions of sorts.

 

There is a school bus, a vintage fire engine, lots of statues, a jet ski, a motor boat, and a fair amount of brim, bass, and even a couple of Koi fish.

 

 

This was my deepest dive to date – 66 ft. I have been hesitant to go to that kind of depth for several reasons. The biggest is responsibility. At that depth, there are serious consequences for making a mistake or not paying attention. I am well trained in every possible scenario – and how to deal with it – but until I am faced with those things in real life, I never really KNOW how I will react.

 

Another is that I am, first and foremost, an artist. Light doesn’t travel too well in water, and things at that depth are generally dull – unless you add sophisticated external lighting. Add to that the fact that you can dive nearly 3 times as long on a tank in shallower water, and the entire thing lacks the appeal of a shallow water dive.

 

There is also the fact that I am not one of those people who do a thing just because I can. (See? Movies like Jurassic Park can provide teachable moments.)

 

So… what was it like? In a word? Awesome. 

 

 

The first thing I noticed was that it didn’t feel any different than diving in 25 ft of water. My body, movements, breathing, sensations – all felt remarkably similar. Had I not looked at my gauges, I would have had no concept of how deep I was.

Until I looked up.

It is hard to describe. Keep in mind that 65 ft is roughly as deep as a 7 story building is tall.

Normally, when looking up in a pool or even on a shallow reef in the Keys, you see the sky. You can make out clouds, birds flying over, the bottom of your dive boat… At 65 feet, all you see is your bubbles, and a faint light. Exhale, and the bubbles march topside and disappear from your field of vision before they break the surface.

And then there is the mental side of things. You know – I mean KNOW – that the only air you have is what is in your tank. Heading to the surface is a methodical process, with multi minute stops along the way. Feel a little claustrophobic? Get water in your nose? Start choking? Dive light go out? Feel a panic attack coming on? Tough toenails. A rapid trip to the surface ends up with you in the hospital, or dead. It is a total head trip.

Then there are the other divers. Diving is, at its core, a group sport. You dive with a buddy at the very least, and often with a group. Being the person that causes the entire dive group to have to surface is rather intimidating – and is sometimes the reason people wait until it is too late before they make their discomfort known to the others.

I did have an episode on my second dive. I was swimming along on the bottom and out of nowhere, I felt like I couldn’t breath out fast enough. At first, I didn’t panic. I just… noticed. After a minute or two, I felt a slight panic. Again, nothing major, but it gave me pause. I have heard stories of seasoned divers with advanced training having panic attacks out of nowhere. I closed my eyes, concentrated on breathing slowly and deliberately, and the feeling eventually passed. It was unnerving, but I am glad it happened. I now know something about myself that I didn’t before.

Overall, I was pretty pleased with how things went. I made some new friends, heard interesting stories, got to hang out with an old friend I had not seen in quite some time, and even tried chocolate covered black licorice 🙂

I am sure I will dive here again, and I will likely end up on deeper ocean dives. If nothing else, by doing it here, I now know that I CAN.

Life is like that, sometimes <3

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